How Can We Resolve Lewontin's Paradox?

Brian Charlesworth, Jeffrey D. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We discuss the genetic, demographic, and selective forces that are likely to be at play in restricting observed levels of DNA sequence variation in natural populations to a much smaller range of values than would be expected from the distribution of census population sizes alone-Lewontin's Paradox. While several processes that have previously been strongly emphasized must be involved, including the effects of direct selection and genetic hitchhiking, it seems unlikely that they are sufficient to explain this observation without contributions from other factors. We highlight a potentially important role for the lessappreciated contribution of population size change; specifically, the likelihood that many species and populations may be quite far from reaching the relatively high equilibrium diversity values that would be expected given their current census sizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberevac096
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • coalescent time
  • diversity
  • effective population size
  • genetic drift
  • hitchhiking
  • mutation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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